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Middle East Crude-Market stays weak ahead of OSPs

SINGAPORE, Feb 3 (Reuters) - The Middle East crude market stayed weak on Monday as traders awaited fresh official selling prices (OSPs) from Gulf producers to gauge price direction for April-loading cargoes to trade this month.

Top oil exporter Saudi Arabia is expected to cut the OSP for its flagship Arab Light crude in March for a second straight month, to reflect a weaker Dubai market.

The March OSP for Arab Light could fall by 30-60 cents from February to hit the lowest in seven months, a survey of four refiners showed.

For Arab Extra Light, its March OSP could fall as much as 90 cents a barrel, weighed down by Dubai and a slightly weaker naphtha crack, traders said. The March OSP for Arab Heavy could rise, supported by a rebound in fuel oil margins in the past month, they said.

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Traders also eyed OSPs from Abu Dhabi National Oil Company (ADNOC) and Qatar, with refiners calling for price cuts to reflect lower consumption as peak refinery maintenance season commences.

In South Korea, a pipeline operated by GS Caltex Corp cracked and leaked oil into the sea as Very Large Crude Carrier Wu Yi San was preparing to berth and offload crude on Friday.

Oil remaining in the pipeline leaked, but none spilled from the tanker, which did not affect refinery production at GS Caltex, according to the refiner and the Korea Coast guard.

A spokesman at GS Caltex said: "The tanker needs to go through safety tests before unloading the crude and unloading might be done through a jetty nearby or ship-to-ship, which the shipper is in charge of."

*TENDERS

- Five remaining ESPO cargoes were sold via tenders at the lower end of the price range for March-loading barrels. Rosneft sold a March 10-13 cargo to SK Energy at $5.10 above Dubai quotes while its March 25-28 cargo went to JX Nippon at a premium of $5.55. Subsequently, the Russian producer sold another two ESPO cargoes to load on March 12-15 and 21-24 to Unipec at premiums between $4.50 and $5 a barrel.

- Japanese refiner Cosmo Oil bought a cargo to load between March 29 and April 1 at $5.30 a barrel above Dubai quotes in a joint tender issued by Rosneft and Surgutneftegas.

- ONGC offered 700,000 barrels of Russian Sokol crude for loading on April 16-19 in a tender to close on Feb. 5 with bids valid until a day later.

* TRADES

- Vitol sold 11 Dubai partials to Chinaoil and Trafigura at $102.20-$102.40 a barrel.

* OSP

- Dubai crude, as quoted by price-reporting agency Platts, averaged $104.02 a barrel for January, the lowest in six months, traders said.

- The OSP for Oman crude in March will fall by $3.84 to $104.04 a barrel, Reuters calculations based on data from the Dubai Mercantile Exchange (DME) showed on Friday.

* DME OMAN

- DME Oman for April settled at $102.33, down $1.34 at 0830 GMT. This puts DME Oman at 34 cents a barrel above Dubai swaps.

* MARKET NEWS

- OPEC's oil output has risen in January from December's 2-1/2-year low, due to a partial recovery in Libyan supply and higher shipments from Iraq and Iran, a Reuters survey found on Friday.

Output from the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries averaged 29.94 million barrels per day (bpd), up from a revised 29.63 million bpd in December, according to the survey based on shipping data and information from sources at oil companies, OPEC and consultants.

- Asian buyers cut their purchases of Iranian crude by 15 percent in 2013 and shipments to Tehran's biggest oil customers are expected to recover only slightly this year, even after a deal with the West eases some sanctions.

China, India, Japan and South Korea together cut imports from Iran to an average of 935,862 barrels per day (bpd) in 2013, government and industry data showed. That would mean a revenue loss of $46 billion for Tehran, based on pre-sanction crude exports of about 2.2 million bpd.

- Crude exports from Iraq declined in January to an average of 2.228 million bpd from 2.341 million bpd in December but should rise next month when a new platform at Basra ports is ready, Oil Minister Abdul Kareem Luaibi said.

Of the 2.228 million bpd exported in January, 2.036 million bpd came from Basra, Luaibi said, adding that Iraq aims to ship more oil to Africa in addition to Asian and European markets.

- South Korea's crude oil imports in January fell 5.5 percent from a year earlier to 77.2 million barrels, preliminary data from the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy showed.

- West Africa's daily oil exports to Asia are set to rise above 2 million barrels in February as some crude normally bound for U.S. and European markets is sent east instead, a Reuters survey showed.

For crude prices, oil product cracks and refining margins, please click on the RICs below.

Brent

Dubai

DME Oman

Brent/Dubai EFS

PRODUCT CRACKS

Fuel oil crack

Gasoil crack

Naphtha crack

Complex refining margins

(Reporting by Florence Tan; Editing by Dale Hudson)

((Florence.Tan@thomsonreuters.com)(+65 6870 3497)(Reuters Messaging: florence.tan.thomsonreuters.com@reuters.net))

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